The Democratic Party of the Left (Italian: Partito Democratico della Sinistra, PDS) was a democratic-socialist and social-democratic political party in Italy. Founded in February 1991 as the post-communist evolution of the Italian Communist Party, the party was the largest in the Alliance of Progressives and The Olive Tree coalitions. In February 1998, the party merged with minor parties to form Democrats of the Left.
The PDS evolved from the Italian Communist Party (PCI), the largest communist party in the Western Bloc for most of the Cold War. Since 1948, it had been the second-largest party in Parliament. The PCI moved away from communist orthodoxy in the late 1960s, when it opposed the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia. In the 1970s, it was one of the first parties to embrace Eurocommunism. By the late 1980s, the PCI had ties with social-democratic and democratic-socialist parties, and it was increasingly apparent that it was no longer a Marxist–Leninist party. With this in mind, in 1991 the PCI dissolved itself and refounded itself as the PDS. Its first leader was Achille Occhetto, the last secretary of the PCI.
Although Ochetto had proclaimed the end of Communism, the new party's logo consisted of an oak tree sprouting from the previous symbol of the PCI in a roundel at the tree's roots. This logo was adopted not only to allow the PDS to trade on the PCI's roots, but to keep any potential splinter party from adopting the old PCI symbol right away. This did not prevent hard-liners leaving the party and launching the Communist Refoundation Party (PRC). In 1993 the PDS was admitted into the Socialist International and Party of European Socialists. In the same year the party's MEPs moved from the European United Left (GUE) to the Socialist Group in the European Parliament.
In the 1994 general election Occhetto was the leader of the Alliance of Progressives coalition, of which the PDS was the largest component. However, he lost to the Pole of Freedoms and Pole of Good Government coalitions led by Silvio Berlusconi, who became Prime Minister for the first time. In the aftermath of the election, Massimo D'Alema was elected new party secretary. In the 1996 general election, after the collapse of Berlusconi's coalition, the PDS was the largest component of the winning The Olive Tree coalition, led by Romano Prodi. It became the largest single party in the legislature, with 146 seats in the Chamber of Deputies and 102 in the Senate. The Prodi I Cabinet included 16 PDS ministers and 10 PDS junior ministers–the first time that (former) Communists had taken part in government in half a century. Walter Veltroni, a leading member of the PDS, served as deputy prime minister, while another leading member, Giorgio Napolitano, became interior minister.
In 1997 D'Alema called for the party to become a full-fledged European social-democratic party. In accordance with this call, the PDS merged in 1998 with the Labour Federation (splinters of the Italian Socialist Party), the Social Christians (including also several former Christian Democrats), the Republican Left (splinters of the Italian Republican Party), the Unitarian Communists (splinters of the Communist Refoundation Party), the Reformists for Europe (mostly former Socialists) and the Democratic Federation (a Sardinian party formed by former Socialists, Democratic Socialists and Republicans) to form Democrats of the Left (DS). On that occasion, the party decided to replace the hammer and sickle of its logo with the red rose of European social democracy.
The electoral results of PDS in general (Chamber of Deputies) and European Parliament elections from 1992 to 1996 are shown in the chart below.